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Read the ‘Troopergate’ report on Sarah Palin

Click here to read the “Troopergate” report in all its 263-page glory; Alaska’s bipartisan Legislative Council today unanimously voted 12-0 (that’s four Democrats and eight Republicans, if anyone’s counting) to release it to the public.

The report finds Gov. Sarah Palin violated Alaska’s executive branch ethics act, which says that “each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

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Who’s really politicizing Palin’s ‘Troopergate?’

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so let’s be clear: Alaksa Gov. Sarah Palin was for cooperating with a bipartisan-backed, independently conducted investigation of her possible abuse of power before she was against it, and all that really happened in between was her Republican vice-presidential nomination.

Palin denies that she fired former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan because he refused to fire a state trooper who was her ex-brother-in-law, involved in a nasty child-custody battle with her sister; although her husband and her staff spoke with Monegan and his staff about the trooper repeatedly, she says Monegan was fired because of insubordination on budget issues and other policy differences.

Alaksa’s Legislative Council, a bipartisan panel of state representatives and senators who tend to legislative business when lawmakers aren’t meeting in regular session, decided an investigation was warranted. This panel of four Democrats and eight Republicans voted 12-0 in late July to spend up to $100,000 to hire an independent investigator “to investigate the circumstances and events surrounding the termination of former Public Safety Commissioner Monegan, and potential abuses of power and/or improper actions by members of the executive branch.”

Sharon Leighow, Palin’s spokeswoman, at the time said, “The governor has said all along that she will fully cooperate with an investigation and her staff will cooperate as well.”

Legislative Council chairman state Sen. Kim Elton days later announced veteran Anchorage prosecutor Stephen Branchflower would conduct the probe; Palin said she welcomed an investigation, although Branchflower’s muscle wasn’t needed. “I know he’s a prosecutor, probably a heavy duty prosecutor, and so that kind of puzzles us why we are going down that road when we are very, very open to answering any questions anybody has of me or administrators.”

But as soon as John McCain announced Palin as his vice-presidential pick Aug. 29, things began to change.

That very same day, Palin’s new lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, wrote a letter to Branchflower requesting a full list of documents, other evidence and witness statements. Van Flein also demanded that the investigation — already almost a month in progress — be handed over to a three-person state personnel board – of which one member was re-appointed by Palin in January, and the other two appointed by previous Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski.

State Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Hollis French responded Sept. 1, noting he’d done so rather than Branchflower because Van Flein had challenged the Legislature’s jurisdiction. French wrote “it would be highly unusual for an investigator to share information with one of the targets of the investigation.”

It was in the context of these sudden, new obstacles that French then told ABC News that McCain’s campaign had never contacted anyone involved in the investigation while vetting Palin. “If they had done their job they never would have picked her. … Now they may have to deal with an October surprise,” he said, referring to the previously scheduled Oct. 31 release of the committee’s final report.

Now Palin won’t talk to Branchflower, and Alaska’s Republican Attorney General has told state employees to ignore subpoenas in the case. And on Tuesday, five Republican state lawmakers — none of whom sit on the council that launched the investigation — filed a lawsuit to delay the probe until after the Nov. 4 general election. The Liberty Legal Institute — a Plano, Tex.-based nonprofit conservative law network that’s helping represent the lawmakers — is part of the Free Market Foundation, where president and chief counsel Kelley Shackelford was a member of the GOP’s Platform Committee this year. Shackelford told a reporter at the Republican National Convention that McCain’s selection of Palin had “resurrected” the party’s social conservative base.

They say the investigation is biased because French and Elton are both Democrats and Barack Obama supporters. But French and Elton aren’t conducting the investigation; Branchflower is.

And that was good enough for Palin until a national election was on the line.

So who’s really politicizing the investigation?

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Why is it ‘sexist’ to take a close look at Palin?

I utterly reject the notion that it’s “sexist” to vigorously question Sarah Palin’s qualifications. It’s my job as a journalist — and your job, dear reader, as an American — to question the qualifications of anyone who seeks any public office, regardless of race, age and gender. Nobody should get a free pass; to imply otherwise might be… well, sexist.

As governor, Palin has served more than 20 months at the helm of the nation’s fourth-least-populous state, with fewer residents than San Francisco; Alaska in 2007 ranked 45th among the 50 states by gross state product, a measure of economic activity (and for context, Alaska’s GSP was about 2.5 percent of California’s). She has racked up several accomplishments as governor, including an overhaul of state ethics laws; blindsiding lawmakers from both sides of the aisle by using her line-item veto power to make deep cuts in their state construction budget; and pushing to build a natural gas pipeline despite some big oil companies’ opposition.

She is, however, now the subject of an ethics investigation herself; the Alaska Legislature wants to know whether she abused her power in firing a cabinet member who claims she wanted him to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a messy divorce with her sister. An independent investigator’s report is due by Oct. 31, but while Palin initially had said she and her staff would cooperate fully, her lawyer is now questioning the Legislature’s jurisdiction and wants the probe delayed.

The notion that her status as head of Alaksa’s National Guard qualifies as military experience seems like an insult to people with actual military experience. I asked a spokesperson to send me a list of Alaska Army National Guard and Alaska Air National Guard activations and deployments since Palin took office, and here it is, verbatim:

1. The AKNG was trained up and on standby to provide military assistance for civil disturbance during the International Whaling Commission meeting in May 2007.
2. The AKNG provided aviation support (personnel and helicopters) to help fight the Mat-Su wildfires in June 2007.
3. The AKNG provided security forces for the Adjutants’ General Association of the United States conference in June 2007.
4. The AKNG provides on a daily basis search and rescue assets for civilian search and rescue missions across the state.
*since Dec. 2006:

    MISSIONS: 521
    SAVES: 200 (Lives saved)
    ASSISTS: 77 (Lives assisted to safety)
    SORTIES FLOWN: 826
    HOURS FLOWN: 2012.6

Outside of Alaska … providing state-to-state assistance through EMAC
***5. The AKNG sent a C-17 with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and Guard members to Mississippi to support search and rescue efforts expected in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in September 2008.

All other deployments have been for federalized, overseas service — instances in which the Pentagon is in charge, and the governor really has nothing to do with it. And while I respect her son’s decision to enlist (he ships out to Iraq next week), this qualifies Palin no more than any of the other hundreds of thousands of U.S. parents who’ve seen their children go off to war in Iraq in the past five and a half years.

I’ll also venture to say that — contrary to statements made by Cindy McCain and John Bolton (who as the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations really should know better) — being a governor whose state is close to Russia and Canada doesn’t constitute “foreign-policy experience.”

As for her earlier experience, she was a city councilwoman and mayor in a town that at the time was about two-thirds the size of Emeryville. It’s a town that at the time (according to the 2000’s U.S. Census) was 85.46 percent white, 0.59 percent black, 5.25 percent Native American, 1.32 percent Asian, 0.13 percent Pacific Islander, 1.32 percent from other races and 5.94 percent from two or more races; 3.68 percent of the population was Latino. That’s no bastion of diversity, even by Alaskan standards – the same census found the state in its entirety was 69.3 percent white, 15.6 percent Native American, 3.7 percent black. She reportedly won the mayor’s office — in 1996, with 651 votes — by running an aggressively partisan, socially conservative race for a nonpartisan office. The biggest municipal budget she ever handled there was $14.4 million. And though she would later make waves as a reformer tough on lobbyists and earmarks, she was responsible for hiring lobbyists who brought that tiny town almost $27 million in federal earmarks, earning her town a place three years running on John McCain’s own annual lists of objectionable pork.

Education-wise, Palin holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism with a political science minor from the University of Idaho. Incidentally, I also have a Bachelor’s degree in journalism with a poli-sci minor; I’m proud of it — I think it fits my career — but I don’t think it’s all that impressive (or, at least, academically rigorous) for someone who’s supposed to be of the very best and brightest, seeking our nation’s second-highest office.

So, based on what we know of Sarah Palin from her background and from what we’ve seen and heard of her this week, everyone — Democrat, Republican or other — owes it to this country to ask himself or herself:

    Do you think where she has been and what she has done gives her insight into the day-to-day lives of most Americans?
    Are you OK with her making decisions that affect the lives of U.S. troops and the security of U.S. interests at home and abroad?
    Can you comfortably envision her representing the United States before the United Nations General Assembly, or at a meeting of the G-8, or at some other international gathering or summit?
    And, as a friend of mine put it, do you believe a person with these very same qualifications would’ve been picked as a vice-presidential nominee if that person was a man?
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Roundup: Palin’s first days on the campaign trail

Wow. What a first few days for Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate:

    She has hired a personal lawyer to represent her in the Alaksa Legislature’s investigation of whether she abused her powers by pressuring a cabinet member – whom she later fired – to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper involved in a nasty divorce with her sister.

Yet former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who chairs the Republican National Committee’s RNC Victory 2008 effort and so has been a prominent proxy for McCain, today implied questions about Palin’s experience are somehow off-limits:

“The facts are that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as a Mayor and Governor than Barack Obama has made in his life. Because of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms. They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin.”

Is “keep drawing the fouls” the whole strategy behind the Palin pick? I’d guess her speech to the Republican National Convention tomorrow night will have a very large television viewing audience.